Sep 16, 2014
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Seed Legumes on Snowy Frozen Fields

February 14, 2014

Winter seeding clover over grass pastures works best in February. Frozen fields are ideal and a snow cover makes seeding easier.

Adding a legume to fescue or other cool-season grass makes money, says Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist. "Investing in clover seed is more profitable than investing in Wall Street," he said.

There are at least four reasons for overseeding legumes into grass pastures, Kallenbach says. It is so easy. But the main reason is legumes add pounds of gain on beef calves.

"We’ve recommended adding clover for years," Kallenbach says. "But now, with the price of calves, it means more money."

Four years ago, calves sold for a dollar a pound. Now they can double that.

MU grazing studies show an extra quarter pound of gain a day from calves on clover-mix pastures.

"If that doesn’t sound like much, multiply that out by 200 days from birth to weaning. That’s an extra 50 pounds per calf," Kallenbach says. "Do the math for your herd for all your calves."

Clover makes a big difference in diluting toxins from endophyte-infected tall fescue.

Endophyte, a fungus in the fescue, cuts calf daily gains and reduces milk from mama cows.

Results are even better on nontoxic fescues.

For all those benefits, the investment in seed and labor is modest, Kallenbach says.

The legume seed is broadcast over pastures. With freezing and thawing of the soil, no tillage is needed. Expanding and shrinking works the tiny seed into the ground, but not deeply.

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